Helping the city develop and deploy responsible AI

Amsterdam AI Technology for People logo 

In December 2019, a group of academic, medical and other organisations in Amsterdam announced the launch of AI Technology for People. This initiative is designed to help the city develop and deploy responsible tech in the field of AI, and focuses on serving people working in health, business innovation and citizen support. The initiative encourages collaboration with leading institutions around the world, as well as public partners and members of the business community.

Coinciding with the launch, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) was selected as a centre of excellence by ELLIS, the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems. Designed to attract and retain AI talent in Europe, the programme chose the UvA based on its history of quality scientific research and work, and announced the launch of a so-called ‘ELLIS Unit’, which will be run from Amsterdam Science Park. 

A billion-Euro investment in the future

Amsterdam AI Technology for People initiator and UvA president Geert ten Dam and programme ambassador Anita Nijboer (Credit: Bob Bronshoff / New Scientist)

Read the New Scientist interview with President of the University of Amsterdam Geert ten Dam and AI Technology for People programme ambassador Anita Nijboer.

Home to the largest innovation and science ecosystem in the Netherlands, Amsterdam has a long history of public-private partnerships and has been promoting research, education and innovation focused on AI for over three decades. Through the AI Technology for the People initiative, local organisations have developed targets designed to advance the field over the next ten years. These include:

  • committing at least €1 billion in financial resources to AI
  • ensuring at least 800 people work in AI education, innovation and research
  • training at least 5,000 students in AI technology at BSc, MSc and PhD levels
  • having at least 10,000 students minoring in AI
  • impacting at least 100 SMEs through collaborative spin-off projects
  • ensuring there are at least 100 AI startups in the city

Amstel by Anastasia Dulgier via unsplash

Additionally, the initiative will focus on the practical application of AI tech in three domains: AI for business innovation, AI for citizens and AI for health. The initiative will also encourage companies to conduct research in Amsterdam and establish headquarters in the city while helping improve the quality of life for residents and encouraging medical breakthroughs related to AI. The organisations involved in the initiative are the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital (which is partnered with the Netherlands Cancer Institute), the Amsterdam Economic BoardAmsterdam UMCCentrum Wiskunde & Informatica, the City of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam University of Applied SciencesSanquin, the UvA and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU).

Making Europe an AI leader

The UvA as an ELLIS centre of excellence is part of a new project designed to support leading European talent in the field of machine learning with the goal of making the continent a global AI leader, so it can benefit from resulting economic and social developments.

Each participant selected for the project will receive at least €1.5 million in sustained funding annually for the next five years. The money will be used to support roughly half a dozen researchers and provide them with salaries similar to those offered by large tech companies. Operations began in spring 2020. 

Max Welling, professor of machine learning at UvA and the leader of the ELLIS Unit in Amsterdam, said at the time: “This ELLIS Unit will further strengthen the leading position of the University of Amsterdam in machine learning and artificial intelligence in Europe. The ELLIS network will facilitate the exchange of top researchers and students in the field of AI.”

Read the New Scientist AI special, published autumn 2020, with much more information on AI in Amsterdam and the AI Technology for People programme (PDF).